Portrayals of gender and identity in the soundtrack of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Abstract

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (CD Projekt Red, 2019) is an award-winning role-playing video game (RPG); the third instalment of The Witcher game series inspired by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy novels. Centring upon the protagonist Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher 3 has been praised for developing a complex, authentic, and immersive game environment that combines magic and fantasy elements within a broadly medieval setting. A central aspect of the game’s success is its soundtrack – the fusion of music, sound, and voice – which further contributes to building the game’s overall narrative and the complex construction of its central characters. 


This paper explores how The Witcher 3’s soundtrack constructs identity, focusing in particular on its use of neo-medievalist signifiers and its contrasting representations of masculinity and femininity. Neo-medievalist sounds are a central concept in building the game’s identity; these sounds draw on folkloristic elements surrounding the choice of instrumentation and the recurrence of folk music throughout the game’s narrative, thus increasing the player’s immersion within The Witcher 3’s world. Regarding gender, female vocalisations are used within the soundtrack to add depth and emotion to male characters – particularly Geralt of Rivia, who due to his mutations lacks in conventional emotional capabilities. Despite the inclusion and emphasis of female voices on the soundtrack, the placement of women in influential roles is limited through other musical scoring techniques, which effectively reduces the agency of these characters, thus suggesting an imbalanced treatment oftowards gender. Through exploring these aspects, I argue that the soundtrack is a crucial part of how gender and identity are constructed throughout The Witcher 3, further exploring how these elements affect the player’s overall in-game immersion.  

Keywords

ludomusicology, video game music, role-playing games, gender, identity, semiotics, masculinity, femininity, medievalism

How to Cite

Eckersley, C. E., (2022) “Portrayals of gender and identity in the soundtrack of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 8(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/fields.980

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Cerys Elizabeth Eckersley (University of Huddersfield)

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This article has been peer reviewed.

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